Unexpectedly favorable news from a number of fronts helped push the stock market broadly higher this morning. The most surprising source of that news came from Europe, where Italian bond yields fell to their lowest levels in almost three years, marking a sign of confidence that the country's beleaguered economy can rally even after its recent election failed to produce conclusive results. Meanwhile, new-home sales rose 1.5%, reversing yesterday's weaker results for existing-home sales. Add in favorable earnings news, and the Dow Jones Industrials (INDEX: ^DJI) rallied to a 134-point gain by 10:45 a.m. EDT, with broader markets also posting gains of around 1%.
Earnings news played a big role in the advance. Within the Dow, Travelers (NYSE: TRV) rose 2.6% after it moved to increase premiums on certain policies and suffered fewer major catastrophic events during the quarter. Although revenue declined, the company boosted its profit by 11% and raised its quarterly dividend to $0.50 per share -- a 9% jump from its previous rate. Even when hurricane season returns later this year, the insurance company will have established a strong foundation on which to weather future storms. DuPont also impressed investors, gaining 3% after reporting better-than-expected earnings and affirming its full-year earnings guidance, adding a 5% dividend hike to boot.
But the best gains were found outside the Dow, as Netflix (NASDAQ: NFLX) soared 23% following last night's quarterly report. With the addition of more than 2 million new U.S. subscribers and its attempts to bolster its exclusive-content library apparently paying off, Netflix may soon be able to increase its profit margins as economies of scale start to kick in. Moreover, international growth was promising: The company said it would add another European market by the end of the year, with further expansion coming sooner than expected. Netflix lives and dies by its growth estimates, so the news was welcome for shareholders.
Still, as important as earnings are, Europe and housing will continue to affect the Dow's movements as well. It's vital to avoid letting daily news whipsaw your views on the market. As conflicting reads on the state of the economy create increasing uncertainty, you'll often see gains from a day of happy headlines disappear when the next round of pessimistic news comes. Make sure you keep an even keel and a long-term view of the market to guide your investing decisions.